voestalpine continues its international roll-out of the cutting-edge 3D printing process based on metal powder: In addition to the five additive manufacturing centers previously established throughout the world, this innovative technology is now also being used at two voestalpine facilities in China.
The High Performance Metals Division is an international trailblazer in this field thanks to its complete know-how, which encompasses everything from in-house production of the metal powder, to component design, all the way to production in the 3D printer.
Focus on toolmaking
Back in 2016, the founding of the voestalpine Additive Manufacturing Center in Düsseldorf, Germany—a research and development center for 3D printing technology using metallic materials—laid the groundwork for the utilization of additive manufacturing technology within the voestalpine Group.
Centers in Canada, Taiwan, Singapore, and the United States followed. Now, two centers offering this production technology have been inaugurated in the Chinese cities of Shanghai and Dongguan. These two Chinese facilities will focus on toolmaking especially for the automotive and consumer goods industry as well as for applications in medical technology. They currently employ a staff of six specialized in additive manufacturing.
"So far, we have invested about EUR 50 million in this innovative and resource-efficient technology. This includes both powder atomizing equipment for manufacturing the metal powder and 3D printers for producing the components. Additive manufacturing processes offer almost unlimited possibilities for achieving highly complex geometries."
Metal powder is manufactured in Kapfenberg & Hagfors
Currently, at total of fifteen 3D printing facilities are being used at voestalpine’s seven additive manufacturing centers worldwide to produce sophisticated custom products. The highest-quality metal powder used for 3D printing is manufactured within the Group at its sites in Kapfenberg, Austria (voestalpine BÖHLER Edelstahl GmbH & Co KG) and Hagfors, Sweden (Uddeholms AB). On the whole, more than 50 experts within the High Performance Metals Division are engaged in metal additive manufacturing work.
Additive manufacturing involves building up components using digital design data layer for layer. This makes it possible to produce novel geometries—e.g., for highly complex tempering or lightweight construction solutions—without any loss of materials. The compression molding industry is one example where voestalpine acts as a development partner responsible for tasks that range from selecting the right material all the way to designing and building the tools and simulating their use. The customized tools that are manufactured using 3D printing don’t just increase the life cycle of a given tool, they also lower the number of defective parts, in turn reducing CO2 emissions.